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Preview: Philly City Commission

By John McDonald, Contributing Writer

At the heart of the races for three Philadelphia city commissioner seats – whose occupants oversee City elections and maintains voter registration data – are questions about whether these officials should run for election at all.

Marge Tartaglione

The Committee of 70, a City watchdog group, and the Philadelphia Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, which monitors City finances, have both recommended ending the practice of electing those who run City elections.  Some candidates for the office have flirted with the idea as well.

Nonetheless, ten city commissioner candidates will be on tomorrow’s ballot.  The top two vote-getters from each party will square off in November’s general election.  From there, the top three candidates will comprise the three-member board for the next four years.

On the Democratic side, incumbents Marge Tartaglione and Anthony Clark are both seeking reelection.

Tartaglione, the fiery, resolute, controversial ward leader seeking her tenth four-year term on the commission, is favored to retain her seat despite a raft of electoral adversity.  She is one of a handful of elected officials running for reelection after entering the oft-criticized Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP).  Her daughter Renee, a close aide in the commissioner’s office, was forced to resign last year after the City’s ethics board found she had engaged in illegal political activity.  Marge Tartaglione herself underwent open heart surgery in February.

A fellow incumbent, Clark is a ward leader seeking his second term on the commission.

Challengers Stephanie Singer, a longtime City elections gadfly and Center City ward leader, and Bernard Blair Talmadge, a former deputy city commissioner, received the endorsement of the Philadelphia Inquirer earlier this month.

Singer and fellow challenger Ivy Staten, the 24-year old niece of Laborers Local 332 business manager Sam Staten, received the endorsement of the Philadelphia Daily News.

Singer’s endorsement roster also includes former Congressman Joe Sestak, state Senators Larry Farnese and Mike Stack, and state Representatives Tony Payton, Mike O’Brien and Brendan Boyle.   John Dougherty and the powerful IBEW Local 98 union are also supporting Singer’s effort.

She managed to raise more than $110,000 since January 1, and had more cash on-hand ($52,668) than Tartaglione ($43,829) according to the most recent campaign finance filings earlier this month.

But in an election likely to yield low turnout given the lack of a high-profile race at the top of the ticket, the near-reverence (and GOTV resources) the City’s ward network and Democratic machine will provide Tartaglione figures to present a formidable challenge to even the most well-suited and financially-viable challenger.

Three-time candidate Warren Bloom and Point Breeze activist Michael Edward Bell round out the Democratic field of seven candidates.

Incumbent Joseph Duda, seeking his fifth term, headlines the field of three Republicans ultimately running for the commission’s minority seat in the fall.

Al Schmidt, the 39-year old former auditor at the Government Accountability Office in Washington, has earned the endorsements of both the Inquirer and Daily News, as well as the influential Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity.  United States Senator Pat Toomey recorded a robo call urging GOP voters to cast their ballot for Schmidt as well.

Schmidt raised $57,503 between January and May, and entered the home stretch with more cash on hand ($34,747) than Duda ($30,426), who is running with the support of the City GOP committee.

Also running is Marie Delany, founder of the Overington House, which provides transitional housing for homeless women and children.

2 Responses

  1. Definitely, Stephanie beats Tartaglione. The HOPE is that Talmadge or Staten come in second and push out Marge completely.

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